Surviving White Australia

Written in 1995, this book describes Australia in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Those ethnic communities complaining about pejorative words directed at them in the 2010s can have no idea of the bitterness expressed by Anglo-Australians seeking to protect white British space when confronted by large intakes of European workers and the arrival of a small number of young well-educated English-speaking Asians seeking a university education.

Anglo-Australia was about to be dragged into the real world, and thence to joining the Family of Man. By 1995, it had made great progress in that direction.

TITLE: ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’

AUTHOR: Raja Arasa RATNAM

DESCRIPTION: This first book explores the twin issues of multiculturalism and destiny, based upon an exceptionally wide range of involvement by an Asian in white Australian society.

An Asian immigrant writing about his settlement experiences in Australia over a period of half a century  is clearly noteworthy. (In that period, the country changed from white Anglo-Celt to multi-hued multicultural.) That his experiences include receiving a meritorious service award from a trade union for voluntary services (in spite of his refusal to go on strike when directed) is unique. That such a person can claim a substantial voluntary involvement in a range of mainstream (i.e. Anglo-Celt) community organisations is certainly unusual. His narrative about his diverse work experiences, as well as his origins and development, highlight areas of community interest relevant to any multicultural nation.

In the circumstances of a near-global focus on the issues of ethnicity, tribal exclusivity, and cultural hegemony, the author has something to say to the ordinary person, as well as to official advisers, in the areas of multicultural policy, migrant and refugee settlement services, and inter-community relations. His simple message is that human beings instinctively gravitate towards one another without the divisive influence of tribally-motivated politicians and priests. A shared spirituality and common human desires over-ride tribal, linguistic and other cultural differences. He therefore sees the role of governments restricted to removing barriers to equal opportunity; and to educate those who claim any racial or cultural superiority or primacy (except for some much-needed affirmative action policies for indigenous peoples).

PUBCOMMENTS: “Destiny Will Out” is a well-written, interesting and enjoyable account of the settlement experiences, spanning half a century, of an Asian in an emerging multicultural Australia. A successful amalgam of personal reflection and informed analysis, Arasa’s story reflects an insistent faith in the human spirit in the fight for true racial integration. Through its undying mysticism, the book also challenges the reader to contemplate the role of destiny in the politics of human societies. (From back cover)

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I grew up with no (repeat, no) experience of racism of religious prejudice in a mixed-race, mixed-religion, Asian population. Colour prejudice was exercised only by some mothers preferring “fair” daughters-in-law (this quaint requirement was part of the cultural heritage of those who had been formed by Indian traditions). Australia was a shock to me on arrival. Racist comments and overt discrimination were thick on the ground and in the atmosphere. Even after an influx of more than 100 new languages, and about 70 new ethnic communities, colour prejudice remains; but well below normal hearing levels.

However, the Australian “fair-go” philosophy will eventually over-ride ignorance, preached prejudice and cultural hegemony. The youth of each generation lead these changes in society, behaviourally and institutionally. Australia is therefore the country of the future; that is its destiny. It was my destiny to participate, in a miniscule manner, in the re-colouring of Australia.

EXCERPTS: From Chapter 16: ‘We are a bloody-thirsty, power-hungry species of animal left to find ourselves by a Creator who merely set up the mechanism, and let the details evolve. We cannot blame God for what happens, nor for what we do. I find it difficult to believe that what happens to mankind or to individual men is important to God, or even to involve God.’ (p.282)

From Chapter 3: ‘Those men in our community who were able to keep their hair into old age proudly credited the tradition of daily oiling and weekly oil baths. Thus nurture overrode nature for them; the rest of us kept pretending that our destiny was not deep-rooted hair, but deep-rooted relationships enabled by the extra testosterone causing the hair loss (subject to consent, of course).’ (p.27)

From Chapter 1: ‘A parallel exists, in modern times, in what was referred to by an Australian wit (perhaps a half-wit) as the “greatest gang-bang in history”. This was when a white-controlled nation sent its predominantly black and Christian armed forces to protect its own interests, and that of a predominantly white and Jewish people, against a brown and Muslim state —-.’ (p.9)

Chapters

Part One – Origins

Chapter 1 – The Bardo of Becoming a Nation

Chapter 2 – The Birth of Sorrow

Chapter 3 – Blessed be Childhood

Chapter4 – The Transgressor

Chapter 5 – The False Dawn

Chapter 6 – The Blue Yonder

Part Two – Shocks

Chapter 7 – Culture Shocks

Chapter 8 – Death of a Dream

Chapter 9 – Reverse Culture Impacts

Part Three – Settlement

Chapter 10 – Integration – Background

Chapter 11 – Integration – The Launching

Chapter 12 – Integration – The Economic Scene

Chapter 13 – Integration – The Ethnic Scene

Chapter 14 – Integration – More of the Ethnic Scene

Chapter 15 – Integration – The Community Scene

Part Four – Towards the Light

Chapter 16 – Lost on a Straight Path

Chapter 17 – Myths of Multiculturalism

Chapter 18 – Falling Leaves Return to the Root

Chapter 19 – Equality in Unity

Postscript

REVIEW: “I welcome the publication of Raja Ratnam’s timely book. He is well qualified to comment on burning issues of ethnicity, tribalism and cultural hegemony, having had personal experience of settlement in Australia over a period of half a century. His voluntary involvement in a range of community organisations and his work experience as a senior public servant are a testimony to the success of Australia’s multiculturalism, with its roots in the democratic ethos of the country’s original settlers. The book is particularly timely, now that Australia is about to celebrate the centenary of its nationhood.” (Emeritus Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, Member, National Multicultural Advisory Council, Australia ).

 

 

Continuity with pre-history

Progress in science (the god of the pathway to learning in the Western world in recent times) is generally triggered by the speculative thinkers in each of the academic disciplines. These are the lamp-lighters for those who want to know about our Universe (even a multi-verse Cosmos) and why it is all so; as well as our place in it , and what we seem to be (apart from stardust).

Since the capacity to speculate freely is unlimited, by time, space and even theology (in both religion and the prevailing explanatory paradigms of the various disciplines of knowledge-seeking), a range of possible doorways to knowledge can be theorised; these may lead to pathways of probable relevance.

However, is there a man-made constraint about accepting continuity through historical time? I instance the continuity of learning; and thereby to the apparent continuity of civilisational features through time – through now extinct civilisations.

In the light of the precise geometry of construction and the accuracy of the geodesic placements of the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians, it would be fatuous to believe that late-arrival Greeks discovered geometry. Earth’s positions against the constellations of the zodiac at a particular period of time, and the alignment of our planets in that period as evidenced, or linked in ancient mythology, may assist in dating the construction of the Pyramids and the Sphinx more accurately; as well as certain events mentioned in the Veda’s of Hinduism.

The history of mankind seems to go far beyond 3,000 BC, long before the cultural ancestors of Europeans (Greece) and their religious ancestors (the Israelites) could make any kind of impact.

Our current civilisation seems to date from about 13,000 BC, after the abatement of the Universal Deluge, with its almost total destruction of everything on Earth. That Quetzalcoatl and Viracocha should arrive in oar-less boats in Central and South America suggests the survival of pockets of an earlier (pre-Flood) civilisation of high achievements.

Let us not try to sound clever by muttering ‘Where’s the evidence?’ Modern day speculative cosmologists like Einstein do not seem to have been challenged about their lack of evidence.

So-called Caucasians in Central Asia in an early historical period; skeletons of tall (up to an estimated 12 feet) humans in North America; ‘African’ heads in Central America; ‘black’ people in China; clearly brown people in Taiwan (now in Polynesia); constructions such as Nan Madol and other massive stone buildings in various parts of the globe, components of which cannot be moved by modern equipment; mind-over-body, and other psychic phenomena, exhibited in diverse parts of the globe; ‘thumbnail’ and other psychic or spiritual healers; artefacts displaying high technology having been dug up from great depths; and so on! There is so much we cannot explain.

Are we then in a position to deny the probability of the existence of advanced civilisations on Earth in so-called pre-history? Nature, in conjunction with huge space-objects and powerful electromagnetic flows of cosmic rays and particles is able to bury or drown whole human civilisations now and then. Large segments of the continents, such as Fennoscandia, are now under water.

Just as reincarnation can enable the continuity of souls through time, via a succession of Earthly lives, so the memories contained in mythology and some artefacts of humanity may indicate the continuity of human civilisations over vast swathes of time.

Do Australia’s media disseminate negativity?

The national broadcaster’s tv channel reports every major disaster anywhere in the world, every day. Each report is at length. Being exposed to unrelenting negativity is soul-destroying.

Some of the news, especially relating to governments, can carry scorpion-tail endings. Why? Hint! Hint! Things can go wrong.

Then, prominent journalists can attack anyone who upsets the owner or management. Although journalists and commentators have a right to express a view, why descend to intemperate language and personal attack? Apparently, fog-horn equipped ‘shock jocks’ make a good living feeding the ignorant in this manner. One can wonder – does this kind of behaviour merely reflect inherited foundational attitudes and values of the nation?

Further, when a government seeks, in the interests of budgetary balance and equitable treatment, to reduce some of the monetary cream granted to excess by a previous government – in order to fatten the middle class (known as middle class welfare) – the screams uttered in public by segments of the media are much louder and more emotive than the screams emanating from those whingeing about their ‘loss.’ An implication of loss of entitlement is ever present. Yet more negativity in reporting.

What has happened to responsible reporting and commentary? Isn’t a perpetual flow of negativity through the media – even if this institution is not much respected – psychologically debilitating in its impact on the community?

Australian voters have lost their trust in their political system – with good cause. Without an objective and fair media, how are we to identify religio-cultural bias, and the ‘alternative facts’ and other propaganda, which are inflicted upon us?

 

Adolf Hitler quotes (1)

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.
The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category.
The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.
Strength lies not in defence but in attack.
Words build bridges into unexplored regions.
The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.
(From brainyquote.com  It may also be timely to note how totalitarians view us.)

Imposing one’s values upon others

Recently, reportedly, Australia asked the Philippines Government to dispense with the death penalty. Why? Isn’t the Philippines an independent, democratic, and Christian nation? Just like Australia? Have we asked the USA the same question? Would we dare to do so?

Not long ago, when Indonesia executed 2 Australians convicted of involvement in the illegal drug trade, those opposed to the death penalty made a terrible fuss. Since there is an underlay in Australia of antipathy to ‘Muslim’ Indonesia – in spite of its wonderful policy of Panchasila – one could legitimately wonder if white supremacy was the trigger.

Before that, when Malaysia had applied the death penalty to an Australian convicted of involvement in the illegal drug trade, reportedly, a senior politician in Australia had made intemperate utterances against the Malaysian government. So, what’s new?

Now, we have some politicians and priests who, allegedly, wish to interfere in Indonesia’s sovereignty; they seek to separate Irian Jaya from the rest of a nation with vast ethnic and religious diversity. Interestingly, according to a senior academic I met in Malaysia in the 1970s, there had been an effort to create a brown-skinned, Christian nation between Australia and the rest of Indonesia. The intention had been to establish a buffer to protect Australia from the ‘hordes from the north.’ Today, it might be just the anti-Muslim busybodies at work.

Then, when the member nations of ASEAN showed signs of a capitalistic independence from the West, the latter formed APEC. An Australian, a Japanese, and an American each claimed independent paternity. Was APEC intended to ‘smother’ ASEAN? Yet APEC apparently did not contribute to protecting those nations of south-east Asia being targeted by those intending to bring down their economies and currencies.

Prof. Krugman’s advice to Malaysia to prevent any outflow of portfolio capital saved that nation. The IMF was subsequently accused of promoting a policy which would have caused the Indonesian peoples great pain. Was neo-colonialism the ghost in this policy advice?

Australia has also gone into battle zones behind the USA. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria seem to be chosen playgrounds by those Westerners who cannot just mind their own business.

We in Australia are not a chosen people. We cannot claim to be a nation of exceptionalism either. We continue to be a dependent nation. When China and the nations surrounding the South China Sea reach an accord, we risk being left isolated at the edge of Asia, and also the Pacific and Indian oceans.

“I am not allowed it. So you cannot have it”

The weirdest policy I have come across is a Roman Catholic practice relating to the nether-lands of women. In order to increase its following, local priests in Australia asked (as I was told by colleagues) each couple in their congregation to produce 6 children; with birth control denied. Quaintly, the Protestants and non-Christians are also denied birth control. Would not their populations also increase?

More pertinently, why does this Church interfere in the lives of non-believers? The degree of mental and social control by Catholic priests was so extensive that, even today, in the second decade of the 21st century, their values and attitudes , which were prevalent in the 1950s (as I observed), are being strongly asserted by politicians (sotto voce, of course).

The current trigger for this retrograde stance is a renewal of a claim, supported by about 80 to 85% of the Australian people over decades (but ignored – or denied – by our so-called representatives in parliaments), to permit voluntary (repeat, voluntary) euthanasia in very limited circumstances.

A few European (Catholic) nations allow it. But we are British, and are thereby different. Surely we are different; we are an officially secular nation, but are ruled by Vaticanite social policies in our parliaments. A minority of the population has successfully taken over the nation’s policies.

Hence, theology over-rides compassion. In defence of a theocracy-based denial of the end-of-life needs of a few non-Catholics, there is a sustained reference to ‘killing,’ ‘the slippery slope,’ as well to the imputed venality of the descendants of those who may be seeking relief – hitherto unavailable – from grievous unrelieved pain! Compassion for a fellow human being should surely over-ride religious dogma. What is being effectively said is “Since we are not allowed this relief because of our faith, you should not have it either.” Why not? I doubt if the Heavenly Father is involved here.

In this multicultural nation, there is a diversity of religious beliefs (and non-beliefs). Can we morally afford a dog-in-the-manger stance? I look forward to watching those politicians opposing compassion (in the name of Christ, presumably) doing their role-playing in defence of the indefensible!

Voluntary euthanasia, when made available to the citizens of Australia, will not require Catholics to practice it. Freedom of choice, yes?

 

 

My interview on ABC Radio

I received a surprising invitation this week from Fiona Wyllie of ABC Western Plains (based in Dubbo, NSW) to talk on air as to whether state governments or the federal government have responsibility for immigration policy; and could I also comment on the broader issues involved. She referred to my past as Director of Settlement Services, as well as all other related areas, in the then Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

Fiona had interviewed me, on behalf of ABC South Coast, 20 years or so ago, about my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia.’ A scheduled 4-minute interview ended 22 minutes later.

Apart from my own settlement experiences, I had worked (as a Director) in all of the following policy and operational areas: ethnic affairs (and multiculturalism); citizenship (and national identity); refugee and humanitarian entry; and all areas of migrant settlement assistance (viz. migrant hostels – including childcare and recreation; the grant-in-aid scheme and migrant resource centres; community-assisted settlement – CRSS; and language services – translation and interpretation.

When I wrote that book, I was probably the only person in the country with direct experience of all these wonderful efforts to guide immigrants and refugees to integrate into a nation which offered equal opportunity. It was not surprising that the Department bought a copy of the book; it was, according to the senior academics who offered accolades, the first time that all of these policies had been set out and explained in a single package. As well, the policies had been interwoven into an Asian immigrant’s personal story of cross-cultural interaction.

Fiona also wanted to know why a prominent businessman had said that he would talk with a State Government about an immigration matter. Did State Governments have any responsibility for immigration approval?

My comments to Fiona were as follows:

  • Only the federal Minister for Immigration has responsibility for migrant entry to Australia
  • She would have to ask the businessman why he would approach a State Government about an immigration issue;
  • Anyone in the community could ‘make representations’ to federal immigration officials or the minister about the entry of non-residents;
  • That immigrant, refugee and humanitarian entry had, in my day, been stringently controlled. Applicants were assessed during a personal interview by immigration officials as to their ability to settle successfully in Australia.
  • I am unsure whether there is now reliance on immigration agents in the country of departure to vet an applicant’s claims; that is, whether Australian officials actually sighted an applicant.
  • With equal opportunity available to all accepted entrants, and a barrage of settlement assistance offered, settlement has been successful, resulting in a cosmopolitan nation, tolerant or accepting of cultural difference.
  • I had previously questioned the need for a multiculturalism policy, with the government telling us how to relate to one another; and the expensive, parallel, ethnic community-based settlement assistance.

I did not point out to Fiona that PM Howard and Premier Carr had been correct in replacing the emphasis on cultural diversity (and its retention) in favour of a shared citizenship; or that all entrants had to accept and adapt to Australia’s institutions (especially the law) and its social mores.

In the light of my experience and observations of immigrant integration, I counsel against broad assertions about experiencing prejudice (which relates only to words and attitudes) and discrimination (acts actually denying equal opportunity on the basis of skin colour or culture). How prevalent and generalised are these? One can be unduly sensitive.

 

Freedom of choice

The durian is a tropical fruit whose extraordinary pungent odour and piquant taste have divided people into true lovers and decided haters over the centuries. Those who relish the egg yolk coloured squishy flesh swear that it is a wonderful delicacy. But there is nothing delicate about its impact. On the other side of the fence are those who are disdainful of the powerful aroma emanating from it.

Yet the fruit has not been legislatively banned. No one seems to have sought to have it declared obnoxious. This might reflect the tolerant philosophies of ancient Asian cultures. There is freedom of choice: one does not have to eat the fruit just because it is there, or because others desire it.

Now imagine this situation. In an inland town, the local Council-owned swimming pool offers, for a single month preceding the summer holidays, free entrance and lessons. The reason? Each summer, at least one child drowns in the sea about 3 hours’ drive away. Is it probable that anyone might reject this offer on the ground that their offspring might drown in the pool while taking lessons? Is it also possible that someone might deny the children the opportunity to drown-proof themselves, arguing that swimming in a pool with foreigners is not within their cultural parameters?

That is, would they reject a service, much-needed by many, on tribo-cultural grounds? Indeed, might they then argue that the free service should be disallowed because it runs counter to their traditional beliefs?

Then, there are those of a certain religious persuasion who will not accept blood transfusion; but do not deny access by fellow residents to this procedure. In a comparable manner, another religious community rejects meditation as a practice, claiming certain adverse probable outcomes; yet another community will not join the nation’s military or work for the government. Neither religious community, however, denies the right of members of other religious persuasions to meditate, fight for the nation, or work in government administration. That is, they accept freedom of choice as the right of fellow citizens, especially in an officially secular nation.

(The above is an extract from an article of mine published in http://www.ezinearticles.com. titled ’Denial of freedom of choice.’) 

Does international law override national sovereignty?

‘One of the phrases now frequently heard in public debate in Australia is that some conduct of a government, usually the federal government, is “contrary to international law”. … …

The problem about the phrase “contrary to international law” is that it is essentially meaningless when a nation-state is observing its own domestic law. There may, of course, be different questions when one country takes action against another without the authorisation of the UN Security Council. As was demonstrated, however, when Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014, there may be nothing the UN can do about such an action.

Otherwise, however, every nation-state is governed by its own domestic laws and cannot be directed by any international organisation, such as the UN, to override those laws. It is certainly possible for a nation-state to adopt the provisions of an international treaty and make them part of its domestic law. Australia has entered into hundreds of treaties in recent decades and some of these have been used as the basis for federal legislation. … …

This use of international treaties by the commonwealth has long been disapproved of by the states on the ground that, when the Constitution was drafted in the 1890s, such treaties were extremely rare and it was never envisaged that they would become a major source of commonwealth power and allow a significant diminution of state powers.

As in many other areas, however, the High Court has endorsed a wide meaning for the external affairs power in the Constitution and upheld this substantial increase in federal authority. … …

… … It is important that the ultimate responsibility for the laws that apply in any country rests with the legislators who have been elected by the members of that community. It would be quite unsatisfactory for any international body, including the UN, to be able to override domestic laws when they are not accountable to the electors of the country in question.

There is a view, however, among many of the international civil servants who work for those organisations and in the ever-growing ranks of human rights lawyers that the rulings of international bodies such as the UN should take precedence over the laws of any particular country.

Many of those who hold this view have no real attachment to any individual nation and do not see why national communities should have the final say over their own destinies. … …’

(The above paragraphs are extracts from ’Assange ruling: international law no match for sovereign states’ by Michael Sexton in the ‘Weekend Australian’ of 11February 2016. Michael Sexton SC was described in the paper as the author of several books on Australian history and politics. I remember him as a Solicitor-General)

 

 

 

 

 

EARLY MEMORIES: A smorgasbord of characters (3)

Ranked high in this collection is my Indian drinking mate. Tall, erudite, and wearing a cracked lens in his glasses, he was a natural leader. My other drinking mate was the gentle-giant mountain-climbing Austrian. We had some interesting discussions.

I remember standing up to the Austrian at about 2 am at the International Conference set in a small township. He had advised me to keep away from his mountaineering girl friend. With my nose at about his chest level, I threatened to hit him, as she was a friend of mine too. His advice came after he had seen me protecting the girl’s right breast during a post-prandial talk-fest. The next morning, as he left to do some shopping, he agreed to buy me a bottle of brandy for the evening – a true friend. Youth can be forgiving.

Back in town, at about 10pm one night, a Malayan friend rang me in great consternation. During an encounter of joy with his landlady, his sheath had become torn. “How” I asked. A “corkscrew manoeuvre” he replied. “Run for the hills” was the only advice I could offer.

In the guest-house I lived in there arrived a young Dutchman from Indonesia, which had just gained independence. He always wore a cravat. I noted that he sought my company. Indeed, I seemed to attract European immigrants. Did they somehow feel my interest in their background, and in what they might have to say?

Amongst these was a sad Yugoslav ex-soldier who had been separated from his family by the war, and never heard of them again. An educated Greek, who had escaped the takeover of his nation by the ‘colonels’ (I believe that is how they were described) and the Yugoslav were employed as filing clerks where I worked.

An escapee from Col.Nasser in Egypt (I came to know well a number of these escapees) cleverly became wealthy in Australia; but was then jailed. When in jail, he was reliably described to me as “living like a king.” On release, he then joined his wife in the UK “in her castle” (so reported the media).

Then, once a week for about a year, I spent an hour absorbing the knowledge of a learned anthropologist, who had escaped the Nazis in time. He couldn’t get a university position (so it was said) because he had not studied the Aborigines. He was an erudite man, who widened my perspective on psychology to take in anthropology.

My interest in physiological psychology was raised by a lecturer who seemed to spend all his spare time writing political letters to the press – which kept him in the public eye. I disliked him because he denied me an honours pass that year “because you are only a pass student.” I was studying full-time (at the expense of my sleep) while also working full-time; and the head of the psychology department was encouraging me to work for an academic career in his discipline.